Effects of task instructions and oscillation frequency on bimanual coordination
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Increases in the oscillation frequency of bimanual movements produce a switch from an antiphase (180 degrees relative phase) to an in-phase (0 degrees relative phase) coordination pattern. This finding is observed when subjects are instructed not to intervene when they feel themselves slipping out of the anti-phase pattern. The question addressed in this study concerned how performance would be affected if subjects were instructed to try to maintain the pattern at all times. This issue was addressed using two separate groups of subjects: one group was given the "do not intervene" instructions, the other group was told to try to stay with the pattern at all times. Forearm rotations were tested in 15 s trials, paced by an auditory metronome set at 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0 Hz. Frequency distributions of the point estimates of relative phase were analyzed. The Do not Intervene group replicated previous findings, as indicated by the development of a bimodal histogram of relative phase distributions with increases in oscillation frequency. However, a very different pattern of findings emerged with increases in oscillation frequency for the group told to stay with the anti-phase pattern. Rather than a bimodal distribution being developed, the data maintained 180 degrees as its central tendency--no secondary distribution developed around 0 degrees relative phase. These data suggest that volitional control can override the inherent dynamical tendencies of the motor system.
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